Old school vs New School Shoulder Pads

Submitted by I dumped the Dope on September 14th, 2014 at 8:46 AM

It finally hit me after watching old footage of Michigan players especially from the Bo-era, anyone in line play seemed to wear shoulder pads which looked about 4 feet wide.  Obviously the current players wear versions which are just wide enough to cover their actual shoulders.  Huge visual difference and it makes the old school guys look superhuman.

But...I don't know why the change.  Was this a rule change that caused this across the board or is there some kind of a torque or leverage thing that is an advantage to be able to twist an opposing player out of the way?   Watching other games we follow with basically everyone else in the country.

Just curious, not the most exciting topic but I felt that I needed to ask the intellectual depth of the Blog for answers!



September 14th, 2014 at 8:51 AM ^

I would expect that shoulder pads fit much better now than they did back then, helping to reduce injuries. I'd also expect that it's a lot easier to run through tight spaces in these, which benefits just about every position.

Bando Calrissian

September 14th, 2014 at 12:54 PM ^

They're using things like kevlar and carbon fiber for shoulder pads these days. Thinner, lighter, stronger, and safer.

Hell, Russell is now making shoulder pads out of scraps of carbon fiber Boeing discards while making 787s.


Personally, I miss those shoulder pads that look like they could poke an eye out if you hit a guy the wrong way. 


September 14th, 2014 at 9:02 AM ^

I think this is what you mean. I tried some of these once in HS and they flopped all over the place and provided little shoulder support when hitting. Plus, the flap in the front sort of interfered with range of motion (at least in my case, not in Wheatley's).

Cowboy collars and neck rolls used to be popular too but seem to have gone away.

Zone Left

September 14th, 2014 at 9:58 AM ^

It's all about mobility. If you ever wore lineman's pads just 20 years ago, you could barely move your arms. I'm sure the materials and designs have improved, but it's all about allowing players freedom of movement.

I dumped the Dope

September 14th, 2014 at 11:26 AM ^

Also wore the 48" wide versions as I recall.  He looked like a damn train coming thru the hole.

I also recall the high school pads where I could not physically catch a ball over my head and barely throw the ball due to pad restrictions.  I guess I chalked that up to I was not a QB and while I was a skinny TE we rarely threw the ball.

I can understand the QB and receivers needing smaller pads but it would seem like lineman could use the width as it would "fill" some holes and make an OL guy harder to get cleanly around...thinking for a spread offense team which was in pass-protect nearly all of the time.